Vail Public Library, NAMI bring programs on depression and suicide awareness to valley | VailDaily.com

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Vail Public Library, NAMI bring programs on depression and suicide awareness to valley

If you go …

What: Ending the Silence: Raising awareness and change perceptions around mental health conditions.

When: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. (teen session) and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. (adult session) Tuesday, Feb 23.

Where: Vail Public Library, 292 W. Meadow Drive, Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: Call the library at 970-479-2184, or visit vaillibrary.com/teens. For more information about the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit nami.org.

Sometimes you just can't even.

Sometimes you can't even see the way out of the darkness.

Sometimes you feel as if there is no way out.

Sometimes you think the only way to make it all stop is to bring your life to a screeching halt.

That's the reality of mental illness.

But there must be another way through it all, right? While it's not as simple as following a yellow-brick road to a wizard who can make all of your issues disappear, there are methods to recognize and cope with mental illness.

As part of the One Book One Valley initiative, the Vail Public Library is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to bring the organization's "Ending the Silence" presentation to Vail on Tuesday. The event will include a teen-only session for ages 12 to 18, as well as an adult session discussing mental illnesses in a different format.

"There are a lot of serious themes in the book chosen this year for One Book One Valley — 'We are Called to Rise,' by Laura McBride," said Lori Barnes, Vail Public Library director. "We want to wrap our hands around all of them."

Mental illness plays a big role in "We Are Called to Rise," so Alison Harakal, Vail library circulation associate, reached out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness to see if they wanted to do a program in Vail about the topic. Harakal had previously worked with the organization when she was in college.

"This valley doesn't have a lot of resources for mental illness, which is crazy because our statistics are twice as high as they are nationwide," Harakal said. "We need more awareness. We need to make awareness known so more people can step in and do something before it's too late."

The statistics

In 2014, Colorado had the seventh-highest suicide rate in the country and recorded its highest number of suicides, at one in 58 deaths. Also in 2014, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that about 36,000 adolescents (9.3 percent) in Colorado had at least one major depressive episode between 2009 and 2013. Only 13,000, or 37.2 percent, of this group receives treatment for depression. Nationally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.

The main goal of the nonprofit, volunteer-driven National Alliance on Mental Illness is to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness, so more people will be willing to get the therapy or medication they need to be healthy, productive members of society.

"The benefit of the program ('Ending the Silence') is breaking down the barriers," said Leah Sadeghi, youth and family program assistant for the Colorado affiliate chapter in Denver of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "There is such a fear about talking about mental health. It's a very youth-friendly program, and we are able to adapt to schools and their scheduling. It's clear we're already too late in doing this."

The One Book One Valley initiative is typically geared more toward adults, Barnes said, but this year, the library is encouraging teens to participate. Adults aren't allowed at the teen session in the hopes that teens will feel more comfortable sharing with their peers.

"Typically, teens don't want to talk about issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts in front of their parents," Harakal said. "Teens also exhibit different symptoms of mental illnesses than adults. They are also more likely to hide it. We hope that with an all-teen environment where their parents are not allowed, they would be more open for discussion."

'Ending the Silence'

Sadeghi said the National Alliance on Mental Illness has seen the recurring benefits of "Ending the Silence" in its ability to reach youth.

"That's where it all begins, and that's where we recognize it first," Sadeghi said. "Kids are then able to recognize the signs and are more willing speak up about it. They aren't as silent as many adults. I think that's huge. They really can help quit making health such a yucky topic."

"Ending the Silence" has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the entire state of Colorado.

"I like that they shared their own stories to make it personal and show these illnesses are real," wrote a student from Temple Emannuel in Denver in a survey following the presentation. "It made me feel comfortable how open they were. Thank you for coming; the presentation genuinely helped me to solve personal issues."

Another student from Lakewood High School wrote, "I liked everything. Connections on a personal level with the presenters helps so much. The presenters were strong, beautiful, energetic, vibrant and focused. I think (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has done an amazing job at presenting stories about their experience."

"We've had great class responses to 'Ending the Silence,'" said Jennifer Daniels, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Western Slope chapter. "Students recommend it to friends. Also, we've gotten serious responses like it's so good to know I'm not alone and so good to know how to help a friend with suicidal thoughts."

The adult session, Daniels said, will be a little bit different from the session for teens, and teens are welcome to attend both sessions.

"The adults' class will be specific to parents and resources for them on noticing the signs of a mental illness and a discussion on the aspects of mental health recovery and basic mental health," she said.

Harakal encouraged school counselors and police officers to come to the adult session of the event because "they're on the front end of this," she said. She hopes counselors will come to the event and learn about the signs of mental illnesses to better notice and respond to them at school. Police officers are also first responders to a suicide attempt.

"('Ending the Silence') is not just two people talking," Daniels said. "The people who run the program have actual experiences with mental health and share their real life stories. There hasn't been one person who hasn't liked it. We're trying to get it into every class."